Midfielder Liam Lightfoot is another of the crop of under-18s who have successfully navigated the academy system to earn a first professional contract which takes him into the first team dressing room environment once the go ahead has been received for a return to football action
We caught up with him this week to talk about what it felt like to have made it through and to have received the offer a deal with the club he supports.
“I was over the moon when I was told I was getting offered a pro contract,” he said. “When we were told when the meetings were going to happen I think we were all anxious as well as excited. You wanted it to come but you didn’t want to get your hopes up too high. It was amazing when the outcome was what I wanted to hear.
“You go into the meeting without any idea of how it’s going to go, even though you obviously hope you’ve done enough to earn a contract. I was nervous going into the room, so it was relief to hear that I’d been given the deal.”
As for how he reacted, he told us: “I couldn’t stop smiling and I was absolutely buzzing. All the hard work I’ve put in over the last two years, as well as through my time in the academy has paid off, but now I’ve got to make sure I keep working hard and push for a place in the first team.
“My mam and dad were in the meeting with me. They were both trying to play it cool and hide how excited they were when we were first told, but once we got out to the car they were just saying how proud they were of me.
“It took a few days for me to really take it in, if I’m being honest. Even now when I think about it I’m still in a little bit of shock. This is what I’ve dreamed of since I started playing football, and it’s all starting to pay off, but I need to make sure I keep pushing to make
sure I show what I can do in the first team environment.”
But did he really have no idea at all about which way the offer was going to go prior to the meeting?
“You obviously have an idea that you’ve been doing quite well,” he admitted. “I’d trained with the first team a lot, and I’d also played in reserve games and things like that.
“It was around Christmas time when the first team picked up a few injuries when I started getting more involved. I was on the bench a couple of times and I was the 19th man in the squad a few times as well, and that was all a great experience.
“That sort of thing makes you feel confident going into your meeting at the end of the season, but you can never be sure until you’re actually told you’re getting a contract.
“Once you get the contract offer it does boost your confidence and self-esteem. It was before the end of the season, we still had a few games to play, so in the games we got to play after the contract offer it was like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
“I knew I’d got my contract, so it allowed me to really express myself without as much pressure.”
And for those who haven’t seen him play, he explained: “As a player I’m a hard worker, determined and passionate. I like to think I’m a decent passer and I don’t mind a tackle or two as well. I’ve supported this club since I was a young lad so I’m very passionate about it.
“When it comes to positions, I think I’m quite versatile. At the start of my scholarship I came in as a centre back, but in my second year Eric [Kinder] and Birchy [Mark Birch] spoke to me about pushing up and into a holding midfield role.
“I do think that holding role is my best position, especially because I’ve had experience at the back and I know what a centre back wants from someone playing in my role. I feel like I know where to position myself to help protect the back line, and I feel like I can offer plenty to the team going forward.”
With the finer details of the deal now done and dusted, next up is the return to training and the preparations for the 20/21 campaign.
“I can’t wait to get back into training properly with the first team and being a part of it all,” he said. “I’ve got some of my best friends who will be there with me as well because there are so many of us who have been offered contracts.
“I think with us coming through into the first team as a group who know each other really well will help us all. If one of us has a bad training session or something like that we’ll all support each other.
“We all talk to each other all the time anyway, so it will be nice to have people like that with you who you know you can communicate with. It will also be good to get to know new signings and obviously work even closer with the players who are still here from last year.
“The gaffer has told me he wants me to maintain a position in the squad each week, and make sure I do everything I can to get on the bench regularly, as well as obviously looking to be on the pitch as much as I can.
“I know I’ve got to work hard and make sure I’m ready for whenever we get back into training, we obviously don’t know when that is, so we’ve just got to keep working hard.”
And looking back at what has been a strange period for everybody, he told us: “Lockdown has obviously been strange for everyone. I live out west and I came through to Carlisle for some shopping last week for the first time since March, which was really strange.
“We would usually be back for pre-season at this time of year so it all feels weird, but we’ll get back once it’s safe and we’re all looking forward to it.
“We’ve all been focused on keeping fit and doing as much football stuff as we can, but David Holdsworth has also been setting us some challenges.
“He’s had us cooking, and things like that, so that has helped pass the time as well as helping me to learn some new skills, which I think my mam and dad are pleased about!”
“I just can’t wait to get back into training,” he concluded. “I want to be in there now showing the manager that I’m good enough to be in his team. I’m really looking forward to getting back and working hard as soon as we can.”